1:17pm

Mon June 20, 2011
The Two-Way

Rising Water Traps Three Miners In Kentucky Coal Mine

Heavy rain and flooding have trapped three coal miners underground in the Jellico #1 mine in southeastern Kentucky's Bell County.

None of the miners are thought to be injured.

A spokeswoman at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) says the three miners managed to reach a high spot in the mine and are in communication by phone with officials on the surface. The incident began around 6:40 a.m. ET.

"Pumps are diverting water out of the mine," says MSHA's Amy Louviere. "MSHA personnel are on site, and rescue teams are en route to the mine."

Sources familiar with the situation say that flooding in the area has kept rescuers from reaching the mine. But they also report that pumping has caused a noticeable drop in the water level underground.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the state agency responsible for mining, says in a statement that:

"The water collected in a dip or swag about 180 feet inside the mine's entrance, preventing the miners from exiting. The miners are in an area 600 feet from the mine's entrance on a high elevation point and communicating by phone to the joint command center.

"The flooding of the mine is believed to have been caused by the failure of a diversion ditch at the top of a box cut allowing water to flood the mine. There is no estimated time for the rescue to be completed, but officials are very optimistic that the rescue will be successful."

Jellico #1 is owned by the James River Coal Company.

Family members are being directed to a nearby church for briefings from mine and MSHA officials.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.